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PR- 262-03
September 17, 2003


Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks are below:

Throughout our City’s history, people from around the world have been drawn to the freedom and opportunity that define New York City.  Immigrants, by the millions, have made New York their home and, as a result, we have become the ‘World’s Second Home’ – the most unique, diverse, and vital City in the world. 

Immigrants have come to New York and written their own American success stories by working hard… playing by the rules… and weaving themselves into the permanent fabric of city life.  They are the lifeblood of this City.  Their contributions to our history are beyond measure.  And they have always been - and will always be - welcome here.

Historically, the City’s commitment to our immigrant residents has meant more than just words.  It has also meant services.  Perhaps more than any other City in this country, New York has a proven track record of offering its services to everyone, regardless of where they were born.  That longstanding policy is alive and well today.  And the reason is simple: what’s good for the City’s immigrants is good for the City.

When the child of an immigrant family is educated by our schools and grows up to be a productive member of our community, we all win.  The history of our City is replete with such success stories.

But there is another side to that coin: what hurts immigrants hurts us all. 

When the parents of an immigrant child forego vaccination for fear of being reported to the federal immigration authorities…we all lose.  Tuberculosis and other contagious diseases do not discriminate based on national origin.  They infect all children equally.

Likewise…we all suffer when an immigrant is afraid to tell the police that she has been the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence.  As good as they are, our police officers cannot stop a criminal when they are not aware of his crimes…which leaves him free to do it again…to anyone he chooses.  Which means that all of us lose.

For these reasons, this Administration has made open access to services a top priority from the very beginning.  In May of this year, I signed into law an Executive Order that restored protections originally instituted by Mayor Koch, protections which were then effectively gutted by Federal Legislation passed in 1996 and a subsequent decision by a Federal Court. 

For the first time in this City’s history, Executive Order 34 established a “don’t ask” policy that prohibited City employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status in all but the most limited circumstances.  And - for the first time since 1996 - immigrant New Yorkers had the benefit of formal legal protection on the books.

There is no question that Executive Order 34 was a major step forward for immigrants and for all New Yorkers.  But some rightly asked if we could go even further – if we could offer even greater protection to immigrants seeking essential services from the city.  Today, it is my pleasure to tell you that the answer is “yes.”

The Executive Order that I am signing today - Executive Order 41 - is the most comprehensive privacy policy in the history of New York City. 

It is the product of a cooperative effort between this Administration, the City Council, and a number of immigrant advocacy groups.  It gives assurance to all law-abiding New Yorkers – whether you’re an immigrant, a victim of domestic violence, or any taxpayer – that the confidential information you give to the City…will stay with the City. 

Not only does it strengthen and clarify Executive Order 34’s “don’t ask” policy for immigration status, it also adds a “don’t tell” policy for a whole host of confidential information, including immigration status. 

And it offers these protections without tying the hands of law enforcement, or depriving them of the tools that they need to protect us all.  No one’s interest would be served by shielding those who break the law.

Let me take a moment to explain…Executive Order 41 is a far-reaching Citywide privacy policy.  It not only protects information regarding immigration status, it protects other confidential information as well – like sexual orientation, status as a sexual assault victim or victim of domestic violence, even income tax records. 

The new law establishes a general rule that confidential information of this sort cannot be disclosed by City employees.  It also carves out common-sense exceptions to that rule – for example, when disclosure is required by law, or when it is necessary for the City to do its job. 

In sum, Executive Order 41 offers New Yorkers more protection for more types of confidential information than ever before.  Period.

But at the same time, the benefits of this new law are not unconditional. 

The promise of confidentiality is not for everyone, only for those who abide by the law.  It offers no protection to terrorists and violent criminals who seek to avoid responsibility for their crimes.  Nor is it a shield for law-breakers to hide behind. 

The bottom line is this:  if you play by the rules that apply to every resident of this City, you will be protected.  If you refuse to do so, then you will not.  It’s fair and simple.

At its core, Executive Order 41 is a clear and unequivocal invitation to all law-abiding New Yorkers to come forward without fear or apprehension and avail themselves of the services that keep us all healthy, safe, and prosperous.  This new executive order is good for our immigrant residents, which means it is good for all New Yorkers. 

There can be no more eloquent testimony to that fact than the presence of the people who join us here today – appropriately enough, on Citizenship Day – as I sign this Executive Order into law.

For their hard work in preparing this Order, I’d like to thank Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol Robles-Roman, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, John Feinblatt, our Criminal Justice Coordinator, and John Crotty, the Director of the City’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

And now I’d like to invite Council Speaker Gifford Miller to speak.

Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s input was invaluable in the preparation of this order.  Councilman, you have the floor.

Finally, I’d like to welcome to City Hall Margaret McHugh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, and ask her to speak.

Before concluding the ceremony, I just want to acknowledge the following men and women for their time and efforts:

Emira Habiby-Browne of The Arab American Family Support Center; Don Lee of Homecrest Community Services; Thomas Yu of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association; Chris Chan and Jennifer Kim of the Asian American Bar Association of New York; Dr. Mohammed Khalid of the Staten Island Pakistani Civic Association; Moe Razvi of the Council of Pakistan Organization; Wellington Sharp of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jan Brown of the New York State Bar Association Immigration Committee; Christopher Kui of Asian Americans for Equality; Bryan Pu-Folkes of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment and a Member of The City Human Rights Commission; Joe Semidei of The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families; Moises Perez of Alianza Dominicana; and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat.

Thank you very much to them, and to all others who worked with us on today’s announcement.


Edward Skyler / Lark-Marie Anton   (212) 788-2958

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